Sports Editor’s Playbook, Jan. 21, 2013

Patrick Newell

Do you believe Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o is telling the truth? Was he duped in this “fishhook” scam? Drawing upon the experience of someone close to me, I believe Te’o's story. My issue is the length of time he let the farcical relationship continue. He says he wondered if it was a hoax, but chose not to believe it – or follow his gut. This close-to-home connection that I mentioned was similar in that the person on the other end of the phone rebuffed any efforts at meeting in person, and also refused to participate in a video chat. This person I know was trusting of the “unseen caller” until a fallout a few months into the online/telephone relationship. It was all a sham, and knowing my friend’s reaction, I can understand how embarrassed Te’o must be. Still, he allowed this dubious relationship to go on for three years? In the age of webcams and Skype, that’s a difficult one to explain.

Warning: If you know Greene junior Zach Wentlent or you’re a family member, don’t let him read this portion of the blog. I don’t want to responsible for planting any seeds of doubt. How many times have we heard a TV announcer say something great about an athlete, and then see said athlete immediately blow it? Wentlent’s free throw shooting warms this old-school basketball advocate’s heart. I’m sure Wentlent is an excellent student in school, but it’s a pretty good bet his free throw percentage is higher than his school average. How many basketball players can say that? Wentlent is on a phenomenal five-week run for the 9-2 Trojans. He hasn’t missed a free throw since Greene’s second game of the season on Dec. 8 and that miss is his only miscue all season. He has run off 29 straight free throws and is 33-for-34 for the season or an out-of-this-world 97.1 percent!

Local basketball games, on average, are producing less points per game than I can remember. Only one team of the 16 that I cover average 60 points per game. Bainbridge-Guilford’s boys top the sweet 16 with a 60.5 points per game average. Greene’s boys are less than one point per game behind, while a pair of girls teams – Unadilla Valley and Sherburne-Earlville – are third and fourth respectively. UV puts up 58.8 points per game and S-E totals 58.6. I haven’t had a local girls team lead the area in scoring in 17 years, but this season, two local clubs are within striking range of accomplishing that feat.

So, why are points per game down? I’ll give you one reason: Mid-range shooting is dwindling about as fast as America’s middle class. The open jumper from three feet inside the three-point arc does not possess the pizzazz of a driving basket or the sizzle and excitement of a trifecta. I can’t tell you how many times this year I have seen a player pass up an open jump shot from the foul line area, and subsequently drive into a crowd of defenders in the paint, only to kick it back outside to a teammate beyond the three-point arc. I was so frustrated one night I asked a spectator next to me: “Do they have to run laps if they take that (open) 15-footer?” Every basketball offense I ever played in from the time I was in fifth grade was designed to create a high percentage shot; or at least a high-quality look at the basket. Please young cagers, if you get an open look that is inside the three-point arc, take the dang shot.

You know it’s time to set your expectations low for the game officials when they take their glasses “off” before the game starts. Yes, that really happened at a game I attended last week.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat